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Destinations

Five things to do with toddlers in Canberra

Looking for the ultimate family weekend away? Look no further than the nation’s capital.

By Kerry Warren
Looking for the ultimate family weekend away? Look no further than the nation’s capital.
I never thought I’d be saying this, but Canberra has become cool. The past five years have seen a total transformation of the nation’s capital, making it the perfect destination for a fun weekend away with young kids - and what's more, there's enough great food, wine and accommodation options for even the most discerning parent.
Here are five of the best things to do with little kids, plus our top tips on where to stay, eat and drink.
The national arboretum's pod playground.
NATIONAL ARBORETUM PLAYGROUND
Got an early riser on your hands? This spectacular playground is the answer to all your sleep-deprived dreams! Open from 6am in summer and 7am in winter (365 days a year!), the playground is suitable for all ages and is exciting enough to keep everyone from toddlers to 12-year-olds engaged. There is easy parking and an onsite café open 9am-4pm.
Where: Forest Drive, off Tuggeranong Parkway, Weston Creek
Opening hours: 6am-8.30pm (daylight savings time) and 7am-5.30pm (non-daylight savings time)
Cost: FREE
Website: www.nationalarboretum.act.gov.au
Mini-Q's water play area
QUESTACON
The famous National Science and Technology Centre isn’t just a mecca for primary school-aged children – it’s also heaven for under-6s. Mini-Q, located on the ground floor, is Questacon’s dedicated toddler and pre-schooler zone, where their imaginations (and little legs) can run wild. The water play zone is a huge hit, especially with under-twos, while bigger children will love the space gallery. There is even an area for non-mobile babies, keeping them safe and entertained while their older siblings go nuts. Be sure to book your session at the ticket desk during busy times or you may end up disappointed.
Where: King Edward Terrace, Canberra
Opening hours: 9am-5pm (closed Christmas Day)
Cost: Adult $23, child (4-16) $17.50, child (0-4) FREE
Website: www.questacon.edu.au
The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House's kid's area
OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE
The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House sounds incredibly boring, but hidden within is one of the best kid’s play areas anywhere in the country. There are amazing historical dress-ups, interactive exhibits and a huge area packed full of toys, books, cosy places to curl up and open areas to run and play. And all for a seriously bargain price.
Where: 18 King George Terrace, Parkes
Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily
Cost: Adults $2, kids $1, families $5
Website: moadoph.gov.au
Wallabies at Tidbinbilla
TIDBINBILLA NATURE RESERVE
Another great outdoor option for active and wildlife-loving little ones, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve boasts more than 20 marked walking trails, from 15-minutes strolls to all-day treks. The site is also home to a large population of possoms, wombats, echidnas, emus, platypuses and a wide range of birds and reptiles.
Where: Tidbinbilla Ring Rd, Paddys River
Opening hours: 9am-5pm
Cost: Day pass, $11.50 per vehicle
Website: www.tidbinbilla.act.gov.au
Bike hire at Lake Burley Griffin
CYCLING ON LAKE BURLEY GRIFFIN
Get out in the fresh air and cycle off some of those freakshakes while taking in some of Canberra’s most beautiful scenery on a relaxing bike ride around Lake Burley Griffin. Damn Fine Bike Hire offers every combination of family bike package imaginable, from pedal cars to bike trailers that securely carry up to two babies or children. If it’s winter, make sure you dress the little ones warmly because while you’ll be working up a sweat, they’ll be quite literally chilling in the back.
Where: 2 Barrine Drive, Acton
Opening hours: 9am-4pm, Wednesday-Sunday
Cost: Adult: $25 for two hours, Child: $15 for two hours, Baby seat or trailer $15 flat rate
Website: Damn Fine Bike Hire
STAY: EAST HOTEL
There is no better place to stay in Canberra with kids than Kingston’s East Hotel. With its stylish design and upmarket feel and incredible kid-friendly accommodation options it is a paradise for parents and children alike. The one-bedroom East apartment is perfect for those with little kids. It has a full kitchen, large spacious lounge and balcony with great district views and a separate bedroom, so you don’t have to sit in silence in the dark once your poppets are in bed. Cots, trundle beds and kid-friendly crockery and cutlery are provided free of charge and children will love the extra special touches, like the selection of toys and books placed in each room before arrival. The room service menu – provided by the hotel’s Italian wine bar Joe’s – is exceptional (try the Wagyu lasagna!) and breakfasts at bookshop/café Muse are as good as you’d find anywhere in Sydney or Melbourne. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and welcoming, there is free candy in the lobby and the location is excellent – close to all the wining and dining trendy Kingston and Manuka have to offer.
Where: 69 Canberra Avenue Kingston
Website: easthotel.com.au
East Hotel
A one-bedroom East apartment
The kids' studio
FAMILY-FRIENDLY CAFES AND RESTAURANTS
BREAKFAST
Me and Mrs Jones: A big, bustling and trendy cafe with great coffee, delicious breakfast and enough ambient noise to drown out the tablet playing Peppa Pig.
Where: 26 Giles St, Kingston
Opening hours: 7am-9pm
Website: www.mmjones.com.au
Penny University: A smaller cafe with exceptional food and brilliant coffee (double shots are standard, hallelujah) and a good outdoor seating area for noisy little ones.
Where: 15 Kennedy St, Kingston
Opening hours: 7am-4pm
Website: pennyuniversitycafe.com
LUNCH
CBD Dumpling House: Loud, cheap and cheerful. Very child-friendly and wonderful dumplings and other Asian staples.
Where: 148 Bunda St, City
Opening hours: 11.30am-3pm, 5pm-10pm
Website: CBD Dumpling House
Silo Bakery + Cafe: Some of the best pies, pastries and sausages rolls in the territory are served here, alongside a selection of delectable tarts and desserts.
Where: 36 Giles St, Kingston
Opening hours: 7am-4pm, Tuesday-Saturday
Website: silobakery.com.au
DINNER
Bollywood Masala: Kid-friendly Indian dining that is several steps above your average curry house. Don't miss the signature lamb leg.
Where: 46 Giles St, Kingston
Opening hours: 12pm-2pm, 6pm-10pm
Website: bollywoodmasala.com.au
Walt & Burley: A welcoming and child-friendly pub/bar in the trendy Kingston Foreshore area. A good range of well-priced children's meals and hearty adult fare make this place a hit.
Where: 70/17 Eastlake Parade, Kingston
Opening hours: 11am-10pm
Website: www.waltandburley.com.au
Sammy’s Kitchen: Well-priced Asian fare in a central location.
Where: 9 Bunda St, City
Opening hours: 11.30am-2.30pm, 5pm-10.30pm
Website: www.sammyskitchen.com.au
FREAKSHAKES
Patissez: Just look at the picture below. That's all you need to know. Go there. Go there now.
Where: 21 Bougainville St, Griffith
Opening hours: 7.30am-4pm
Website: patissez.com.au
Freakshakes at Patissez

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